Jack Adams led his Detroit Red Wings to their first Stanley Cup victory in 1936, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs three games to one in the best-of-five series. In their first playoff contest that spring, Detroit defeated the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in a game that went 116:30 into overtime, the longest NHL game ever played. In spite of being a teetotaler, even Jack Adams took a sip of champagne from the Stanley Cup that spring.
The next year, the Red Wings repeated as Stanley Cup champions, this time, beating the New York Rangers three games to two in the best-of-five series. After the decisive win on April 15, 1937, Adams fainted in the Detroit dressing room.
One of the most frustrating springs for Detroit Red Wings general manager and coach occurred in 1942. The Red Wings were up three games to none over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup final that year, and looked poised to carry off hockey's championship trophy. But Toronto battled back and won the next game.
In Detroit for Game 4 on April 12, 1942, the Leafs led 4-3 with less than two minutes remaining in regulation time. The Red Wings were playing with desperation when referee Mel Harwood called successive Detroit penalties to Eddie Wares and Don Grosso. Adams' temper boiled over, not uncommon for him, but the league had admonished him several times for his outbursts. Next thing anyone knew, Jack was on the ice and reputedly took a swing at the official. NHL president Frank Calder, who helped Adams earn his job with Detroit some 15 years earlier, appropriately suspended Jack for the remainder of the final. The Red Wings lost their composure and, with no Adams and no discipline, proceeded to lose that game, allowing Toronto to get back into the series. Momentum shifted. Toronto spanked Detroit 9-3 in Game 5, 3-0 in Game 6 and captured the Stanley Cup with a 3-1 win in Game 7 to close out the greatest upset in NHL history.
Although he mellowed through the years, Adams never backed down from a confrontation or a challenge, and his competitive spirit and shrewd hockey acumen helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup again in 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954 and again in 1955.
"The 1955 (Stanley Cup) victory gave me my biggest thrill," stated Jack Adams. "When you win your first Stanley Cup, it's a great thrill but as I look back now, I find I got more personal satisfaction out of the Wings' winning because of the terrific pressure."
Detroit had finished first during the regular season for an unprecedented seventh time that year. With 95 points, the Red Wings had barely edged the Montreal Canadiens, who finished second with 93. After Detroit eliminated Toronto in four straight games in the semi-finals, Adams, gazing into his crystal ball, said, "I'm not predicting we'll win the Stanley Cup, but it will take a super-human effort to keep us from winning." Detroit met Montreal in the Stanley Cup final for the second consecutive spring. The Canadiens were without the services of Maurice Richard, who had been suspended for the remainder of the season after assaulting an official.
Detroit doubled Montreal 4-2 in Game 1, then thumped the Canadiens 7-1 in Game 2. Montreal rebounded at home with wins of 4-2 and 5-3 in Games 3 and 4. Game 5 went to the Wings with a 5-1 victory, while the Canadiens took Game 6 with a 6-3 rout. On April 14, 1955, Gordie Howe scored the winning goal in a 3-1 Detroit win over Montreal at the Olympia.
Team owner Marguerite Norris, just 26 years old, was presented with the Stanley Cup by NHL president Clarence Campbell. It would prove to be the final Stanley Cup for Jack Adams, yet the one he treasured most.
Kevin Shea is the co-author of 'LORD STANLEY: THE MAN BEHIND THE CUP', the Hockey Hall of Fame's
biography of the Canadian Governor General who donated hockey's most cherished trophy, the Stanley Cup.